It is a perfectly normal physiological process for feet to sweat and on occasions for there to be a slight odour. For some people, however the problem can be persistent uncomfortable and embarrassing. Excessive sweating is clinically known as Hyperhidrosis, this condition is characterised by abnormal increased sweating/perspiration, in excess of that required for regulation of body temperature.
When sweat becomes old and stale it can give off a particularly bad smell. In some cases the smell can be particularly unpleasant for the individual and for people around them. This is due to bacterial involvement, and this condition is known as Bromodosis.
Smelly feet is a common condition and can usually be managed through good self care and some treatment and over the counter foot products.
Causes of sweaty feet
There are many clinical reasons why feet sweat. Firstly there are more sweat glands in our feet than anywhere else in the body. In reality anyone can get sweaty feet regardless of environment or temperature.
But there are some people who are more prone to the condition than others. Teenagers and pregnant women are especially prone to excessive sweating disorders due to hormonal changes. Sometimes feet will sweat excessively due to wearing poor quality synthetic socks or non breathable materials which don’t draw sweat away from the skin.
Similarly people who work long hours in work boots/shoes and in hot conditions on their feet all day can suffer from sweaty feet.
Excessive sweaty feet can lead to further problems and leave the feet susceptible to fungal infections or painful ingrowing nails.
Treatment and advice for sweaty feet
If you suffer from problematic sweaty or smelly feet it is advised that you have a consultation with a chiropodist or a dermatologist, who will be able to fully assess your general health and diagnose any sweating disorders/conditions that you may be suffering with.
In terms of advice, self care is imperative, there are a few simple things or steps which a patient can do to help keep their feet fresh and odour free.
Excellent personal hygiene and changing your socks and shoes on a regular basis is key to preventing persistent problems.
Wearing different pairs of footwear over the course of a week is recommended. This allows soggy or damp footwear to fully dry out before being worn again. Wear leather good quality footwear as opposed to the cheap plastic types.
Wear good quality leather footwear or canvas, as they allow your feet to breathe. In the summer wear open toed sandals and try to go bare foot in the evenings.
Changing socks daily is essential. Wear natural fibre socks rather than man made synthetic fibres. Wash socks on a 60* or higher temperature and dry thoroughly. Replace old socks on a regular basis, every six months is best. Wash and dry your feet thoroughly with soap and water ensuring that they are dried afterwards especially between the toes. Odour control insoles can help absorb sweat, they are available at all good pharmacies. Antiperspirant and deodorant sprays can also be used on the feet.
For people who are particularly susceptible to problematic sweaty and smelly feet there are other methods of self treatment.
Dabbing in between your toes with cotton wool dipped in surgical spirit can help dry up macerated (white soggy) smelly dead skin and athletes foot.
Some sport socks have specially ventilated panels and are impregnated with antibacterial chemicals to discourage odour producing bacteria that can thrive and feed of sweat.
There are some antibacterial soaps that can be used to combat offensive foot odours.
If your feet are persistently problematic and you have exhausted all of the above advice and treatments available then you G.P may be able to help. Your doctor can offer or prescribe a strong specialist antiperspirant, and also if necessary refer you on to a dermatologist for further tests.